Blocking and Tackling

By Hewitt, Janet Reilley | Mortgage Banking, October 2015 | Go to article overview

Blocking and Tackling


Hewitt, Janet Reilley, Mortgage Banking


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Quicken Loans Chief Executive Officer Bill Emerson takes on a whole new role when he becomes chairman of the Mortgage Bankers Association this month. But he's no stranger to the limelight.

BILL EMERSON WAS HAVING FUN. The chief executive officer of Detroit-based Quicken Loans looked pumped as he sat in front of the CBS Sports cameras in the corporate sponsor's seat. He was being interviewed during the broadcast of the Quicken Loans National PGA TOUR golf tournament in August. If a can of Red Bull could wear a suit, this is what it might look like. [paragraph] Pure energy--but contained. [paragraph] Emerson was on the football team at Penn State during the team's championship season in 1982, so he is used to high-stakes sporting events where you show what you are made of under pressure. [paragraph] And that perfectly describes professional golf--just ask Tiger Woods. Emerson has twice played rounds with Woods in the pro-am part of the Quicken Loans tournament. (Talk about testing your nerves.) [paragraph] Emerson, it turns out, is a natural in front of the cameras. No sign of nerves there. And for this Sunday broadcast of Tiger Woods' tournament, he was clearly enjoying himself. He was given the allotted three minutes or so of dedicated airtime to discuss all the good things supported by Quicken Loans' sponsorship of the event.

Typically these interviews are done with older, buttoned-up, Fortune 500 corporate graybeards who have been media-trained into submission. But with Emerson, it was like watching someone so jazzed he could barely sit still. His electric-blue tie kind of said it all.

Quicken Loans is all over the Golf Channel these days with its ubiquitous ads featuring young fan favorite Rickie Fowler. The trendy Fowler features Quicken's brand on his golf bag. And Quicken Loans' Hole-in-One Sweepstakes on the PGA TOUR allows a lucky homeowner to get his or her mortgage paid for a year if a tour player makes a hole-in-one during tournament play. As of early September, a lucky 31 families had their mortgages paid for a year because they won the sweepstakes.

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As the face of consumer favorite Quicken Loans, Emerson is every inch the face of a reinvented, technology-driven, high-performance marketing machine of a mortgage company. The kind of high-profile brand that would sponsor Tiger Woods' very own PGA TOUR event--played every year in and around the nation's capital.

And let's just say, Emerson made CBS Sports' Bill Macatee, who interviewed him, look like a boring blue blazer. It was like watching the embodiment of the old mortgage business versus the new.

Doing battle

While Emerson seems completely comfortable in his role as Quicken Loans CEO, the next 12 months will test his ability to speak for an industry still emerging from a financial crisis that crushed the economy eight years ago. This month he takes on the chairman's job with the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), where he will be the face of not only his progressive company but of the entire mortgage industry.

And even though it's been eight long years since the mortgage market melted down--and even though today lenders couldn't make a bad loan if they wanted to--the nation's attorneys general, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and other regulators are still not done tarring and feathering mortgage companies over the past. It's a battle, a fight, a high-stakes contest that the industry has recently shown signs it's finally ready to fight.

And Emerson is the absolute right guy for this moment.

This is one of those moments of truth for the mortgage industry. Emerson's own company is engaged in a battle with the DOJ and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) over its Federal Housing Administration (FHA) lending. And the company has taken the government to court to battle charges it believes are unfounded. …

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